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Daredevil #504

Posted: Tuesday, January 26, 2010
By: Dave Wallace

Andy Diggle
Roberto De La Torre (p & i), Matt Hollingsworth (colours)
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Daredevil #504 arrives in stores tomorrow, January 27.

Daredevil #504 sees Andy Diggle and Roberto De La Torre continue to tell the story of Daredevil's leadership of the Hand ninja clan, with the events of this issue bringing him into direct opposition to Norman Osborn and the forces of H.A.M.M.E.R., whilst at the same time subjecting him to the manipulations of the Kingpin and Lady Bullseye.

Having quite enjoyed the first couple of issues of Andy Diggle's Daredevil run, I've found that the last few chapters of his story just haven't been clicking with me in quite the same way. There are a couple of reasons for this--and together, they're conspiring to turn what could have been a great story into a merely average one.

The first problem is that the book feels as though it's too heavily focused on Daredevil the superhero. That might sound like an odd criticism for a superhero book called Daredevil, but one of the great strengths of the title has always been the richness of its central character, Matt Murdock, and the dichotomy between his day job as a lawyer and his illegal activities as a costumed vigilante. Without the character of Matt Murdock (who can't really exist in the world of the Hand), the book's balance is thrown off--and since Diggle doesn't seem to be too keen on letting us into Daredevil's head, it's very difficult to connect with the book's central character in either of his guises. It's a problem that's even more keenly felt due to the fact that Diggle's predecessors Ed Brubaker and Brian Michael Bendis were so good at capturing the voice of Matt Murdock--an element that feels sorely lacking here.

The second major problem is that the book feels as though it's being overwhelmed with outside elements that don't belong. A heavy emphasis on "Dark Reign" related characters and plot points seems to be par for the course for most Marvel books at the moment, but Daredevil has always ploughed its own furrow to a greater extent than most other Marvel Universe titles. It therefore feels incongruous to see "Dark Reign" elements (such as Norman Osborn as the head of S.H.I.E.L.D./H.A.M.M.E.R., and Bullseye parading around in a Hawkeye outfit) play such a crucial role in this story, especially when the events that have led the Marvel Universe to this point have nothing to do with Daredevil's actions, and likely won't be resolved in the pages of this book, either. That said, I did enjoy the twisted parallel between Daredevil as the head of an evil ninja army and Norman Osborn as the de facto head of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Diggle does attempt to keep some of the more unique Daredevil elements in the mix, however, with appearances from the ever-manipulative Kingpin and his minion Lady Bullseye. However, even this section of the story feels somehow lacking: the Kingpin's scheme to play both sides off against one another hardly feels like the most inspired piece of tactical planning in the world, and Lady Bullseye is starting to feel increasingly less unique as a character, with a sense that she's more of a second-rate Elektra replacement than anything else.

Finally, there are problems with the pacing of Diggle's story. When the showdown between Daredevil's clan and Osborn's soldiers arrives, it feels like an exciting climax that has been earned by all of the build-up so far. It's all the more disappointing, then, to see the action abruptly curtailed, denying readers the satisfaction and the release of seeing the fallout of Diggle's increasingly tense setup. It's as though the book ran out of pages, and it was the issue's big action sequence that ultimately had to be cut.

One aspect of the book that I can't find fault with is Roberto De La Torre's artwork, which remains as strong as ever, drenching the book in shadows and offering gritty textures and intentionally rough-feeling linework to reflect the tone of Diggle's story.

Ultimately, though, the book feels dark for its own sake rather than because the character or plot demands it, and that makes for quite a hollow reading experience. I'm still enjoying some of the secondary elements of the book, and I'm sure there's a great story to be told about Matt Murdock taking leadership of the Hand and using it as a force for good--but for me, this isn't it.






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